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Ormond Beach Observer Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021 1 year ago

MOAS to present Asbury Short Film Concert for third year

The concert is also celebrating its 40th anniversary.
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

Comedy. Drama. Documentary. Animation. Experimental. 

Is it possible to watch all these genres in one two-hour sitting? It is if you're watching short films. 

For the third consecutive year, the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Daytona Beach is hosting the Asbury short film concert, an evening that provides local audiences the chance to watch award-winning short films from around the world. The concert, to take place inside the Root Family Auditorium on Saturday, Jan. 30, will have two separate shows, as well as a virtual option for those wanting to view the program from the comfort of their homes. 

This year also marks a significant milestone for Asbury: It is celebrating its 40th anniversary.

“We are super excited about that, even as we are still in the midst of a pandemic, the fact that we’ve been able to get this little engine that could last for 40 years blows our minds," said Doug LeClaire, director for Asbury Shorts USA. 

Rick Spencer and Doug LeClaire, of Asbury Shorts USA. Courtesy photo

As the nation continues to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, having trustworthy venues such as MOAS is vital. In 2020, the concert had to cancel about 18 shows, and there was a time where discussions were had about closing the Asbury short film concert. 

 LeClaire said he couldn't express his gratitude enough to venues like MOAS.

"Instead of closing the doors, we decided to turn the cheek and become positive that things are going to get better," LeClaire said. "We like that feeling much better."

This "labor of love" began in the early 80s at a time where not many festivals featured short films, unlike today. The mission LeClaire and his partner Rick Spencer set out to fulfill 40 years ago remains unchanged. They want people to see what independent filmmakers are capable of. 

“You’re going to see this incredible mix and have fun and it’s fast-paced, and at the same you may learn something or you may shed a tear — it’s that type of an entertainment event," LeClaire said. "A little bit of everything hits you in two hours.”

'The best of the best'

Planning an event during a pandemic is challenging. 

MOAS Executive Director Andrew Sandall said they've spent the last eight months building the public's trust in how the museum operates during COVID-19. Planning for a short film concert not only takes time and teamwork, it also takes a bit of luck.

“Everything that we do now when we plan anything, we’re not just planning an event, and planning the attendance and the logistics —we’re having to second guess a pandemic," Sandall said.

Last year, the Root Family Auditorium was full of guests enjoying short films. This year, to adhere to social distancing guidelines, the showing will be split into two seatings. Courtesy photo

In previous years, there has only been one showing of the Asbury short film concert. However, to enforce social distancing and the safety of the event's attendees, MOAS split it into two showings. 

“We’re a nice size for something like Asbury," Sandall said. "It’s something new that we bring to our visitor base, and our membership base, that they wouldn’t necessarily go watch in a movie theater."

Since Asbury switches up its lineup of films everywhere it goes, no one at MOAS has seen any of the films. That's part of the fun of the evening.

“You’re also seeing the best of the best with these films," said Jenelle Codianne, director of marketing and public relations at MOAS. "Every single one of them is like a showstopper film that’s already won awards.”

Short films, big payoffs

LeClaire's goal has always been to bring diversity to each showing.

Some of his personal favorite short films include "Burqa City" by French director Frabrice Bracq. It's a 20-minute comedy about a case of mistaken identity when a man brings home a woman who is not his wife. 

"My Uncle Eddie" is a new eight-minute documentary short about filmmaker Todd Edward Kwaitkowski's uncle who has lived his whole life with cerebral palsy, and yet became a renowned painter and artist. Courtesy photo

On the other side of the spectrum is "My Uncle Eddie," a new eight-minute documentary short about filmmaker Todd Edward Kwaitkowski's uncle who has lived his whole life with cerebral palsy, and yet became a renowned painter and artist. 

“If you like six of the 10, we’ve done our job," LeClaire said.

The thing about short films, Sandall said, is that the subject matter is concise, and yet the payoffs are always big. It showcases how skilled these filmmakers are in telling a story in the fraction of the time a movie does. 

“Sometimes being forced into that format really unleashes their creativity," Sandall said. "There’s nothing flabby about them, there’s nothing overblown about them, and I think it’s one of those things where it really forces the creators to think about what is important.”

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